Who goes to jail? When police have a bust in a hotel room where prostitution is taking place, who goes to jail? Historically, the pimp (the seller of sex) was nowhere to be found, the john (the purchaser of sex) was sent on his way and the girl was the one put in handcuffs and carted downtown for mug shots and lockup. She was the one soliciting, therefore, she’s the criminal.

Thankfully, because of grassroots efforts and faith based organizations uniting to raise awareness, that has changed. In the state of Georgia groups gathered to lobby for stiffer penalties for perpetrators and more services for survivors.  HB 200 was signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal in 2011. Up until that time, the girl was viewed as a criminal. The key provisions in this law are:

  • Provides an expanded definition of “coercion” in the human trafficking statute, to include causing or threatening financial harm.
  • Prohibits defense by blood relation – such as parents exploiting their children – or by marriage – such as a husband “selling” his wife.
  • Significantly beefs up penalties for human traffickers who target minors. If the victim is at least 16 but less than 18 years old, the crime is a felony and punishable by 5-20 years in prison and a fine of $2,500 to $10,000. If the victim is under 16 years old, the crime is a felony and punishable by 10-30 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
  •  Treats those in sexual servitude as victims, not criminals, by offering them recovery under the state crime victim’s fund.
  •  Provides an affirmative defense for victims when coming forward to the sexual crimes of prostitution, sodomy, solicitation of sodomy and masturbation for hire, if the defendant was being trafficked for sexual servitude.
  •  Allows the state to seize any real or personal property that a trafficker used for, or bought with the proceeds of the crime.
  •  Requires law enforcement agencies to receive training on how to relate to human trafficking victims. [Source]

But still, the buyers and sellers of sex have historically gotten away without any real penalty. Where’s the deterrent? There appears to be no risk involved for them? A guy was more likely to get a parking ticket than get arrested for purchasing sex.

As a result of raising awareness to the issue of human trafficking and educating the pubic on it’s prevalence in our own backyards, prosecutors have convicted more pimps and obtained much harsher sentences for them in the past three years. Yet, the johns have mysteriously been missing from the courtrooms.

In February 2014, that changed in the state of Georgia. A landmark case was tried in Fulton County where both the pimp and the john involved were tried and found guilty of human trafficking. The pimp was sentenced to life in prison and the john was sentenced to five years in prison with five additional years of parole. The two 14 year old victims, were rescued. You can read more about that case here.

I was thrilled to see the new laws impacting the fight on human trafficking. I was excited to see a landmark case prosecuting a john happen in Georgia. But I was also thrilled to read how it all started….

Mr. Spencer and Mr. Shuler were arrested on Oct. 20 inside an Old National Highway hotel after someone called to report that underage females were involved in suspicious activity inside one of the rooms.” [emphasis mine]

The rescue, the arrest, the prosecution, the conviction, and the restoration of the victims…. all of it happened because one person saw something that didn’t look right and they placed a call. This person decided to,

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.” [Proverbs 31:8]

This one individual’s actions determined who went to jail. How would you like to be the one responsible for two teenage girls being rescued from the pit of hell? How would you like to be the one responsible for a pimp and a john being locked up for pillaging children for twisted sexual pleasure and financial gain? You can be.

When you see something, say something.

1-888-373-7888 is the National Hotline. Or you can text to 233733 [BeFree]. If you’re in the state of Georgia, you can call 404-941-6024 to report what you see. You don’t have to memorize those numbers. Program them in your cellphone right now and then share them with everyone in your contacts list. Be part of the solution and help get the right people in jail.